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Paynesville Press - July 17, 2002

Safety concerns along 263rd Avenue brought to the township board

By Michael Jacobson

In a compromise over safety, the Paynesville Township Board of Supervisors is considering designating 263rd Avenue as a Rustic Road.

Township residents Lynn Parr and Greg Fuchs, who live on 263rd Avenue, approached the township board about unsafe speeds on the road and their desire for “Watch For Children” signs to be posted along the road at the board’s meeting on Monday, July 10.

The township established a policy a couple years ago not to post “Watch For Children” signs, based on a recommendation from the county highway engineer.

Parr and Fuchs, concerned by the speed of traffic turning from Highway 23 onto the road and by the speed of traffic coming down the road towards the intersection with Highway 23, wanted signs posted to help slow traffic and make drivers aware of the presence of children.

Since the township does not post “Watch For Children” signs – and in fact removes existing ones – one compromise would have been for the township to provide the signs but have Parr and Fuchs erect them out of the township right-of-way.

Parr rejected this because she felt the signs then would be too far from the road right-of-way to be visible. “You’re telling me I can’t have them on my road. The children in town can have them, but children in the township cannot. That’s not fair,” she told the board.

“I think I have every right as a taxpayer to have this,” she added.

Recommendations on “Watch For Children” signs appear to be mixed, with some government bodies using them but others not. How the signs affect the township liability-wise is also unclear.

The argument against using them is that they do not reduce speeds while giving children a false sense of security that traffic is watching out for them. “For awhile, a ‘Watch For Children’ sign didn’t mean much because they were all over (in the township),” explained Don Pietsch, chairman of the township board. “That’s the problem we had.”

There also is a cost to erect and maintain them, as well as they being an extra obstacle to ditch mowing.

If the signs don’t do anything, Parr wondered, why do they have them in town? “It’s just a dangerous place,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a false sense of security. I just don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

“I understand you adopted a policy but I think it’s time to change it,” she added.

Supervisor John Atwood didn’t think accommodating the request would set a precedent, calling it a “special request.” “I would hate to see anyone get hurt regardless of our policy,” he said.

“As soon as we do it,” countered board chairman Don Pietsch, who noted that the township has had three or four similar requests, “we might as well open it up to everybody else.”

One compromise was the township erecting a pedestrian crossing sign (which the township still uses) in the road right-of-way by Parr’s and Fuchs’ residence.

Supervisor Pat Meagher liked the idea of declaring 263rd Avenue a Rustic Road, which would require lowering the speed limit to 40 mph. This would slow traffic both coming off the highway and driving to the highway, and it would be enforceable by the police. Right now, 263rd Avenue is not posted, so technically the speed limit is 55 mph.

The township board was going to research the matter a bit more and is expected to make a decision at their second monthly meeting on Monday, July 24.

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